DECEMBER 8, 2021 — Anson (Joo) L. Ong, the USAA Foundation Distinguished Professor and senior associate dean of administration and graduate programs in the university’s College of Engineering and Integrated Design (CEID), has been named a 2021 Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). The appointment recognizes the lifetime contributions made by Ong who has built a career in engineering education and in research and development.
Election as an NAI Fellow is the highest professional distinction given to academic inventors.
“Dr. Ong’s leadership and ingenuity has been an invaluable part of developing the student experience at the College of Engineering and Integrated Design. He is a talented academic and an excellent administrator,” said JoAnn Browning, dean of the college. “This recognition by the National Academy of Inventors is a testament to the impact he has made on his profession and the undergraduate and graduate students he has educated and guided.”
Ong is a leading educator and researcher in biomedical engineering who has trained and mentored several generations of engineers in innovative medical device design. He was the founder of UTSA’s undergraduate biomedical engineering program and served as the inaugural chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, now the department of Biomedical Engineering and Chemical Engineering. He also served as co-director of the Joint Graduate Program in Biomedical Engineering offered by UTSA and UT Health San Antonio.
Ong has secured over $40 million in total funding to support his UTSA research programs. He is recognized for medical device innovations using biomaterials and holds nine U.S. patents (three utility and six provisional patents) as well as four international utility patents. One of the latter is licensed to a U.S. medical device company.
His most significant patent, “Bi-layered Bone-like Scaffolds” (US8916228B2), describes a methodology to address a critical need to save injured limbs of soldiers wounded on the battlefield by preparing and using novel bi-layered bone-like scaffolds. Previous clinical processes had used cadaver bone as implants—treatments that have been associated with serious complications including infections, poor fit and limited cadaver-bone availability. Ong focused his research on designing and making synthetic fillers for large-bone defects, which reduced the complications associated with cadaver bone. His solution provides custom-made fillers that reduce the risk of infection and disease transmission to recipients. This innovation has enabled improved recovery from surgery and improved quality of life for military patients and their families.
Ong also co-founded GenOsteo Inc, a start-up company that developed and commercialized medical products to aid military service personnel who suffered traumatic injuries. The impact of Ong’s contributions is particularly significant for San Antonio, a city with an extensive military community.
Ong received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa, and his M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He has co-authored 160 peer-reviewed publications, one textbook, one edited book, 16 additional book chapters and over 284 abstracts. Additionally, he has participated in over 50 invited and keynote presentations at national and international conferences and meetings.
Ong is a Fellow of three professional societies: the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, the Biomedical Engineering Society and the International Union of Societies for Biomaterials Science and Engineering. He also serves as associate editor for the Journal of Biomedical Materials Research: Part B and is a past president of the Implantology Research Group of the International Association for Dental Research.
“Academy membership is public acknowledgment by our academic and research peers of our faculty’s accomplishments, and recognition by the National Academy of Inventors is a key indicator of innovation and commercialization success,” said Bernard Arulanandam, vice president for research, economic development, and knowledge enterprise at UTSA. “Dr. Ong’s selection illustrates the quality and immediate benefit of the cutting-edge work he has done in biomedical engineering to address grand challenges in health care.”
The NAI Fellows Program highlights academic inventors who have demonstrated a spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society. To date, NAI Fellows hold more than 48,000 issued U.S. patents, which have generated over 13,000 licensed technologies and companies and have created more than one million jobs. More than $3 trillion in revenue has been generated based on NAI Fellow discoveries.
The 2021 Fellow class hails from 116 research universities and governmental and nonprofit research institutes worldwide. They collectively hold over 4,800 issued U.S. patents. Among the new class of Fellows are 33 members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and three Nobel Laureates. Their collective body of research and entrepreneurship covers a broad range of scientific disciplines involved with technology transfer of their inventions for the benefit of society.
This year’s class also reflects the NAI’s dedicated efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in its membership, with the addition of three outstanding academic female Black inventors. The 2021 class will be inducted at the Fellows Induction Ceremony at the 11th Annual Meeting of the National Academy of Inventors in Phoenix in June 2022.
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